“Fire. Vulnerable as any newborn. Like a child, you give it life, pray that it will thrive and repay your care. Yet how will it survive its first moments in a harsh world?”
From the back cover: “1666. The Great Plague has passed. Londoners celebrate survival in different ways. They drink. They gamble. They indulge in carnal delights. But 666 is the number of the Beast, the year foretold when Christ will return. A gang of fanatics – the Saints – choose to hasten that prophesied day. They will kidnap, rape, murder. Above all, they will kill a king. Two men – the highwayman William Coke and the thief-taker Pitman – are recruited to stop them. Then in the early hours of 2 September 1666, something starts that will overtake them all… London’s a tinder box. Politically, sexually, religiously. Literally. It is about to burn.”
(there are some nice graphics on the back which make that blurb a bit cooler)
This had great promise in the Prologue, with a little two-page excursion into “a spark of fire as a newborn” metaphor which I really liked (and from which I’ve quoted above) and I thought would be indicative of great writing to follow.
Sadly, I was disappointed. I can’t figure out what I didn’t like about this book. It’s readable enough – I got to page 170 in a couple of fairly short reading bursts, and some of its passages set up rich pictures and scenes.
The writing was often bawdy, but not enough to act as a deterrent for me. I couldn’t decide whether it was an intentional effort to write in a non-gendered way (I thought it was a woman trying hard to write like a man – I discover with Google that the author is male…) or to be historically authentic. I have no idea whether any of it was historically authentic at all, but I’m don’t really care.
I think what bothered me was that the line between good and bad was too clear. After a few months of reading Cormoran Strike novels where the perpetrator is always a trusted character or at least a known character in the investigators’ lives, the very obviously split world narrative bugged me, and the sad and difficult things happening to the lead characters were too painful to read when we seemed to be moving further from resolution rather than towards it.
In short, I can’t put my finger on what I didn’t like about this, I just didn’t. Someone else, or even me on a different day, might find it perfectly readable.
Additional informationCopy turned up unsolicited in the post, I presume from the publisher! Amusingly I have an email from the publisher offering me a copy, to which I did not respond, and yet it appeared anyway. Publisher: Century, 329 pages (paperback) Order Fire from Amazon*, Waterstones or Foyles * this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards the running costs of this site